Consumer Reports: How to get the most with an HDTV antenna

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- You may think of TV antennas as those old rabbit ears people would sometimes cover in tin foil to try to get better reception.

Well those days are long gone. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney reports on Consumer Reports' test on the latest indoor models, and to get a clear picture of how the antennas are keeping cord cutters connected to local programming.

Zach Wobensmith ditched cable nearly eight years ago. He bought a TV antenna, and never looked back."If it's raining badly out, sometimes I lose the signal. Most of the time, it comes in fine and the picture is extremely clear," he said.

That includes local news or his favorite late night talk shows, which he's still able to access for free on over-the-air channels. "Pretty much everything was there, and I don't have to pay extra for it," he said.

Consumer Reports recently tested ten indoor antennas, trying them in two locations. Near a window and near the television.

Across the board, the window location worked best.

They also found that while antennas come in a variety of shapes, the design is not as important as where you live and what you are surrounded by. "If you live in a very mountainous area or live in a city and there are a lot of buildings that obstruct the signal, than you may have a tougher time than somebody who is in a plain or in a neighborhood where there aren't a lot of tall buildings," said Jim Willcox, Consumer Reports Tech Editor.

For best results, Willcox says place the antenna high -- or in the upstairs room or attic, if possible. Try a few different locations and rescan to see where you get the most channels.

And if at first you do not succeed in getting great reception, try some other models."Work with a retailer that has a return policy because not every antenna is going to do well in your house," said Willcox.

Just because the picture is free, does not mean it's poor quality. The over-the-air image may even be clearer since it can be less compressed, than what you get on cable. "So, free plus better performance is a pretty good deal for most consumers," added Willcox.

It may also help to know where the nearest TV transmitter is, especially if you have a directional model. The Federal Communications Commission has an interactive map on their website.

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